ANCHORAGE — Change is hard. The evolution of commercial setnetting in the Cook Inlet is no different.
As king salmon runs continue to decline, keeping nets out of the water and fishers off the Kenai River, the East Side Setnet Fishery has seen its time reduced, gear restricted and full-on closure in the past few years as Alaska Department of Fish and Game managers struggle to put enough fish in the river to keep the stock healthy.
In the chaos of closure and the subsequent disaster declaration, some of the longest-running commercial fishers in the Cook Inlet decided it was time for a change.
Gary Hollier has known he has a king salmon problem for some years. The 43-year veteran of the commercial fishing in the inlet watched red salmon jump on the beach in 2012 when the setnet fleet was largely shut out of its season.
So, he bought some twine and spent his time before the 2013 fishing season, holed up in his shop cutting foot after foot from his nets. He shortened about half of the 24 nets he and his crew fished last season.